Tuesday 30 April - Course week

Another bright fresh morning but today was a north easterly wind a little stronger than forecast. Nearly all the course members needed some launch failure practice and we got this out of the way first thing. From then on course flights were all soaring flights.
Congratulations to Paul M on his first solo flight including soaring for half an hour.

Paul with a cheesy grin after his first solo soar
Mark W and Ray B both resoloed after the winter weather. Jon (an early solo pilot from Kestrel club) flew his first solo at North Hill.
Paul C flew his Ventus locally for a 2.5 hours.
Joe S in ASW19 877 achieved his 2 hour soaring flight towards his cross-country endorsement, and Ron with John P in ASH25 711 went to deepest Cornwall, and nearly got stuck behind Dartmoor  having turned Launceston and Truro, but made it back rounding Chard for 310kms.
A selection of photos from Cornwall.
Launceston Castle
Eden Project
Truro Cathedral

Monday 29th April - Course week

The first course of this season dawned bright if not a little cold, but the sun was out, and the Cu was popping. It was soarable from the word go and the thermals got stronger and stronger and the patches of sink got larger and larger.
All members of the course enjoyed soaring flights and circuits or cable break practice. Spare cables were used by Pete St Discus 230 who went round the Club 100 twice, Tom in DG100 DG1 flying locally and congratulations to Adrian in Jantar FDX for 5 hours which completes his Silver Badge.

Sunday 28th April

Sunday's forecast from earlier in the week was rather promising, but as the days passed, it became clear that it would be a let down for cross-country flying.  But it wasn't a complete write-off as there were 40 winch launches, 5 aerotows and several flights getting into wave to 2500ft.
Simon M Regional Examiner put John P through his paces and renewed his Instructor's rating.  Welcome back to John who will fill a useful slot on the Instructor roster.
Congratulations to Heather for converting to K6 DQS.
Heather learns to love wood

Saturday 27th April

A very busy day instructing today in cold blustery North East winds.

Chris and Ruth trying to keep warm
In the morning all three 2-seaters were kept busy with Mike Fitz, Stuart and myself, in the afternoon the 2 K21's were still busy training and the DG 505 was active with Mark C and Paul S preparing for his Ass Cat course. 

I flew with a new temporary member Paul D this morning who is very keen and I am sure will join soon, I also enjoyed a nice soaring flight with Ray R this afternoon, Phil M tried to catch us but this time we won! - LH

Friday 26th April

The second of our ad-hoc flying days this year with 7 members enjoying flights in their private gliders.
 Pete St in Discus 230 was the star of the day completing a 304 kms flight in testing conditions. North Hill - Dorchester - Dulverton - Melbury Bubb - Tiverton - North Hill

 Possibly my slowest 300 ever.
But here's the thing. When you fly from Devon(look at the geography), then factor in the 20kts+ NNW wind and the fact that you can only task E-W.
And there's more - having to cross the dreaded Somerset Levels 4 times. I feel I earned every one of these points today - in fact I reckon I've been done! On the final crossing of the Levels I had to run down to the S coast to avoid the sea air that had penetrated all the way South from Bridgwater bay in the North.
Of course these are just excuses for my own incompetence and thoughts are really with friends not so lucky today.

Wyn  in LS7 W7 completed 109kms exploring local turnpoints  and Ron and Phil in Ash25 711 completed 178kms Dorchester - Dulverton.

Thursday 25th April

Low cloud and drizzle to start and having had several rope breaks recently, the Thursday thermallers set about renewing both winch ropes ready for the spectacular soaring season to come.
Renewing the ropes in the fog
 The winch got a bit lost in the fog at the far end of the airfield, but as forecast a clearance came through after a late lunch and the first launch was at 1515. The ridge worked intermittently with the odd thermal, but flights were limited to about 20 minutes. Everyone flew and we packed up at 19:00.

Wednesday 24th April

An overcast day on Wednesday with no flying until after an early lunch. Initial launches went into cloud but the cloud base slowly went up to an awesome 1400 ft!  5 or 6 mins was average as the wind was slight and any thermals were tiny and fierce and seemed to bear no relation to clouds or ground trigger points.
The most exciting things were watching cable breaks, or possibly having one. It's the only time we are allowed to skim the tree tops in  a tight bank and not be told off!  Actually a couple of the cable breaks were the real deal and you could almost hear the instructors apologising with "it wasn't me that time!"

There was a good number of people out today;  all cheerful, helpful and keen despite the rather average conditions. It was nice to be warm.
Today the swallows and JSt took to the skies above North Hill again, the swallows returned after 6 months away and JSt after an enforced break of 6 weeks.
John Sil, stood in for Ernie who had business commitments, Pete F flew in with the Cub for a brief visit.
Last of the summer Pale Ale
As usual we were not short of advice from onlookers and were pleased to welcome Compo, Cleggy and the Corporal sign writer who were made comfortable on piles of tyres. They later found an old bath and rode it down the hillside to Broadhembury where the mischievous one on the right went off looking for Norah Batty. - Tim J & JSt

Sunday 21st April

A bit of a slow start, under lowish soggy cloudbase, but eventually training flights got going. CFI Pete was checked out by Regional Examiner Simon M on a 3 year standardisation check and managed to find a short gap out of reach of the winch launch. Circuits continued until the drizzel became too heavy.

Saturday 20th April

After our record 11 flights on the ladder yesterday, we can't compete with ~100 flights on the ladder today as the weather in the rest of the country was not replicated in Devon.
There was very little wind to start with ......
Mike demonstrates the use of a calibrated handkerchief
and RASP didn't promise much, but it was thermic in the morning. However the seaair marched through at around 14:00-15:00, with the sky going blue, but later it did get going again with some very small tight climbs to 3,100 ft were possible if you could stay high.
Andrew L K6 GDE and Tim J ASW19 877 managed just over an hour and Henry Cirrus OR and Martin LS3 KMV for hour and half.
But otherwise there were a large number of short flights - 72 winch launches. Paul L renewed his acquaintance with SF27.

Friday 19th April

Matt put out a call for "epicness" for Friday earlier in the week, and a total of 13 gliders lined up for aerotows on our first "ad-hoc flying day" this year - a new concept to open the Club on good soaring days. The strong north westerly wind was forecast to ease, but it actually stayed at about 13 knots at flying heights throughout the day. Cloudbases to the east were 5000 ft but at Molton was down to 2500 ft. The sky was continually changing with streets forming and thermal strengths up to 8 knots average but similar amounts of sink.

Ron and Phil  in ASH25 (711) were the first to launch just before 1200, Ron had wanted to circumnavigate Dartmoor for a long time and thought that today (although not perfect) might provide the right conditions. They completed NHL - Okehampton - Ivybridge - Dorchester- NHL, dawdling a little over Exmouth and the Exe estuary whilst Phil was surveying his house and boat from the air. 263 km.
Dartmoor Prison

Burrator Reservoir
Looking for Phil's boat
 Matt  in ASW20 (M5) and JB in Ventus set off to Dorchester and turned South Molton and Cerne Abbas for 320 km, Matt tried to convince everyone that there was a convergence on the south coast, but ended up with a very low save on a ridge near Chard disturbing two buzzards in the hedge who showed him where the thermal was.
M5 arriving back - beautiful sky still!
Pete St, Discus (230), completed Dorchester - South Molton 210 km but didn't fancy any more head wind.
James flew DG505 (JZK) solo and completed Dorchester - Tiverton 158 km and this is the first cross-country that James has got back home claiming his 100km Diploma.
Congratulations to Paul  S who flew Cirrus 477 and completed an out and return to Dorset Club at Eyres Field for 150 km and had to work hard driving the empty Cirrus back into wind but achieved Silver Distance and 100 km Diploma.
Well done Paul
Congratulations to Adrian P who flew Std Jantar FDX landing near Cerne Abbas after turning Dorchester 81 km for Silver Distance and first field landing.
Well done Adrian
 Tom in DG100 (DG1), fresh from completing his Silver distance two weeks ago, attempted another 100 km flight but landed near Beaminster for his first field landing.
Roly in Kestrel (523) completed the Club 100 Tiverton - Yeovil to claim his 100 km diploma (strangely after his 300 km).
Pete and Jill in Duo Discus (OL) (taking off two hours after Ron) decided to go upwind first turning South Molton and Dorchester, and completed their fastest cross-country for a long while 219kms at 88.8 km/h.
Meanwhile Eric LS7 (194) , Jeff T with Mosquito (380) first outing for a year, Peter Sm Lak19 (1UP) running multiple engine checks all stayed local.

A great day out and lots of achievements- thanks to all our helpers Mark C for tugging, Dave C and Malcolm V for wing running and retrieves. - Here's to the next "Ad-Hoc day".
Logger traces of a Jolly Fine Wheeze

Thursday 18th April

Back from Eaglescott
Flying again at last - although the forecast was for heavy showers and a howling wind, but the streets set up early with a long two-seater list. Every flight was a soaring flight with strong thermals, equally strong squally gusts and the occasional rain break. All the training flights concentrated on enjoying the strong conditions of the very buoyant airmass in the local area. Matt in ASW20 M5, accompanied by Pete St Discus 230 and JB in the Ventus headed off to Eaglescott,  Pete struggled with the headwind and turned short, but Matt attempted a second out/ return before heading down to the south coast  with JB on the west facing ridges. 
Congrats to Malcolm V for completing his Bronze.
Training flights continued until nearly 7:00pm to complete the list. Thanks to everyone for staying late.
PS. I forgot to mention the swallows came back on Sunday 14th with the southerly wind.
Ladram Bay by ridge

The trip to the North

Well this year saw a mixture of fortunes, both in weather and personal achievements. We had some fantastic days and some not so fantastic ones.

Gliding is a sport with "equal" measures of excitement and disappointment. Now here's the trick; when you can't fly you must find something else to do that entertains, fulfils, and satisfies you. What you do is up to the individual. The trip this year contained people that wanted to walk, fly model aircraft, sightsee, birdwatch, study, fettle, and of course, eat and drink!

The thing that I noticed most was the group, although fragmented, collected itself into both small, and sometimes large groups. It was rare to see an individual on their own.
Groups would walk from the clubhouse to the top of the hills in bitter winds, when they came back they were smiling and energised. Others would walk to the bird sanctuary, sometimes continuing around the Loch (9 miles), again returning with grins or maybe grimaces!

Back at the clubhouse model flying took place with plenty of crashes to keep the locals entertained! The new regime at the Portmoak is so relaxed now that  we were able to repair models in the dining hall. Previously you would have been shot at dawn or dusk (whichever came first).

When people had problems with Loggers or Ipaq's, software or hardware, there were always people to help out without even having to ask. The feeling of togetherness was fantastic. Back home at North Hill people of course help each other, but when you are away everyone bonds tighter together, a fantastic feeling knowing that there is help and advice all around.

This friendship is not limited to within the North Hill members, Portmoak folk are brilliant, from the caterers, ordinary members and of course Chris the resident instructor, who goes the extra mile every single time.

We had trips to the seaside, in the air and on the ground, trips to a nuclear bunker, trips to the mountains, Edinburgh, St Andrews. We had fun and that's the name of the game. The flying has been well documented on the blog, what sometimes does not come across is the great pleasure we get from being amongst friends.

Next years trip is booked already. Many people who went this time put their name down straight away. If you have never been, I strongly suggest you give it s go. If the weather does not play ball you may not gain a gold height but you will definitely gain new friends. - MC (intrepid roving reporter)

Thursday 11th April

Low cloud initially, and the overnight rain had left the field a bit soggy. Pete gave the Thursday thermallers a briefing on licences and medicals, followed by turning points and tasks, and what to do to ensure a successful Silver badge claim. We then analysed Tom's 100km attempt in fine detail. After lunch, an Eagle wing was put in the workshop alongside the Oly - an Annex 2 workshop this week! 
It seems that the Portmoak gang having had a couple of good days and a couple of duff days  have decided to come home.
It looks cold on the beach

Wednesday 10th April

North Hill - The air has changed in Devon, no longer the bitterly cold, dry east wind, but now we have a soggy southerly. Although there was some brightness in the sky there was also a very thick haze limiting gliders to one in the air at a time. After Mike Fitz took a few circuits the cloud started lowering and CFI Pete was testing the record for shortest total flight time for 6 launches  - 11 minutes of launch failures and abbreviated circuits.- He reckons he walked 5 kilometres. Lunch was a little late, but the kit was put away as the drizzle started.

Portmoak - Shhhhhhh top secret!

Weather up north was poor today to say the least ......

The excitement builds....
......so the group split up and arranged to meet at a top secret government location . I would love to tell you where it is but we have orders to exterminate anyone outside our group who knows of its location.
Originally a Cold War bunker, in use until the 90s it's was sold as "Farm with nuclear bunker for sale" !
It was purchased by a guy from Edinburgh who is a pacifist, he opened to the public and seems to be attracting a healthy custom. If you are ever up this way go and see it, we will SELL you an encrypted  map but at a high price , who ever said espionage was cheap ! - A brilliant attraction .
Whilst in St Andrews getting our coffee fix, Simon M found the rogue Seagull that met his demise at the hands of the DG, Simon put it in to Paul S car and took it back the club where it will have a proper burial tomorrow .
Simon finds the unfortunate seagull

Scottish Gliding God that the boys started worshipping in hope that the weather would improve for tomorrow
Plans for model flying on the sand dunes at the coast if we can't fly full size, the fun just keeps on going. - Mark C

Tuesday 9th April - Portmoak - East is least, West is best?

Well people always told me that at Portmoak, East wind is useless and that West is the only direction for fun. How wrong that statement has been for the trip to the North this year.
The air has been cold, dry and unstable this has given outstanding conditions, climb rates have been incredible, sometimes off the clock. The group is having a ball,  everyone is working together and reaping the benefit. We don't bother looking at the forecast anymore we take what we get , so far it has been fantastic,  but we know this might change in a heartbeat, so we have plans for entertainment! (ed: it could be a photo competition)

The cooperation from all the Portmoak staff is incredible they really go the extra mile to make us welcome, as I write this we are getting ready to sit down to gammon steaks whilst watching a beautiful sunset, it's doesn't get much better than this. We  look forward to tomorrow will it be as good ?? - MC

Some people don't follow the rules Mr L!

Some people need a snooze at lunchtime Mr C!
Today's flights and achievements
Mark E first solo at Portmoak and first cross country endorsement soaring flight
Mark L first solo st Portmoak and over two hours
Jimbobs flight 3 Kms out over the sea in ENW
Simon M flight to St Andrews 3.5 hrs ( came down frozen feet!)
Andria with Mark C several runs to the coast and back (2.5hrs came down Mark needed loo!)
Henry  3.5 hrs in his new toy (JD7 came down hungry)
Michael F 1.5 hours with Mark C , great improvement in flying skills
Liam in Duo Discus (OL) managed 3hrs with PeteF asleep in the front (hence the long flight time)
Paul S  in Cirrus 477  flew to the Tay and back (total flight time over 2 hrs ) came down for Mark L
Peter Sm (1UP) 2hrs without engine !! He loves his new toy more than Apple crumble
Simon L ,  nothing to report (ed: what about the parking fine?)
Ron and Dan Edinburgh out and return low level , second class British Rail
Mike S (perfect landings) ENW and soaring flight 
Jimbob in ENW over the sea

Monday 8th April - Its snow joke- Portmoak

We woke up to the Bishop wearing a white coat and grey skies above. Not the forecast we had all dreamed of (shock). Chris the local Portmoak course instructor spread further gloom with tales of moist air from the North Sea.
After an extended breakfast, we chivvied the crew into action as the sky was clearing slowly. Within half an hour, the sky looked extremely encouraging. The club gliders were readied hastily, along with several private gliders.
Team ENW
All were towed to the far end of the field, with a strong easterly wind.

Launching commenced by 1100, with Chris the Portmoak instructor heading for a small ridge called the graveyard. Mark C and Michael F , quickly followed and worked the small beat until thermals began to pop. The conditions quickly became booming. Mark L flew with Simon L for two hours in the DG. Michael F and Mark C disappeared in a club K21. A host of single seaters were out. Simon M (SM), James H/Mike S (ENW), Henry F (COR), Peter Smith (1UP) and Paul Summers (477).
A small selection of stunning photos

Cloud streets formed downwind, while the site bordered a blue hole with thermals forming overhead. Cloud base was 3000ft with a strong 20 kt easterly. Very small but strong climbs of 6-8 kt were common.

Ron J was insisting there will be better weather tomorrow - so we'll be expecting a blizzard!
- Mark and Henry

Sunday 7th April - North Hill

A very quiet day at the Club today, with many of the Sunday regulars in Portmoak. Two K21s and a Junior were brought out, with Guy and Andrew M instructing. A stiff southerly made for some interesting approaches, giving those that wanted it an opportunity to practise their crosswind landing technique!

John P rigged the SF27 and soared locally for almost three and a half hours, and Andrew M grabbed an hour in the Junior, with thermals in the overcast up to 2000ft. Roly flew two trial lessons, both of whom seemed keen to return, and Mike and Barbie having returned from their trip to New Zealand shared a flight in a K21. All in all, a much better day than expected, just a shame there weren't more people around! - AM

Sunday 7th April - Portmoak

No flying today but huge laughs all round. First thing Simon L and Mark C gave a talk on the local airspace, afterwards some bizarre map folding took place, but without the expert guidance of our CFI it was fair to say that the results resembled a pre-school classroom,  tears and all .
A group of slightly demented  members decided to climb up the Bishops back , the conditions were extremely poor with snow and a bitter wind " great fun " they said -- yeah right !
Intrepid travellers ready to climb the Bishop
Other members were kept entertained by Simon L, his lectures on how to crash a model glider then rebuild it were followed up by a practical demonstration by Jimbob. 

Jimbob's test flight goes wrong
The results that can be obtained with super glue and fresh cats spit was impressive, if a little time consuming .
So a chilled day for most, flight planning has started for tomorrow as the forecast looks good , even Pete F rigged the Duo with the help of four youngsters with their hands in their pockets, impressive you might think , but considering Liam can eat, drink and sleep without once removing his hands from their fluffy homes it was par for the course for him!
Roll on tomorrow ! - Mark C

Saturday 6th April

Bird strike and you're out - Portmoak
Ron and Dan had planned a trip around Ben Nevis today but after looking at the forecast, changed their plans instead, flying across Loch Earn enjoying stunning views in the gin clear air.
Ron and Dan over Loch Earn
Simon and Mark had a ball on the ridge in the DG before the troops arrived .
Liam jumped into the DG with Mark C and had a couple of hours dodging paragliders (flying men in sleeping bags), hang gliders, vintage gliders and high performance machines. A very steep learning curve but hopefully "Pockets" Liam learnt a lot today ,  he was confused however as to why  the men in their flying sleeping bags had kept indicating "two up" every time we got a little close to them !
Simon M arrived at 2pm and after a quick cup of tea, prised Mark C out of the DG and flew with Mark E for over three hours.  A first for Simon, was squatting a seagull with his wing, the bird despite being very annoyed and very dead hung on for several minutes, only a full sideslip encouraged the miffed carcass to drop off !
Henners rigged his Cirrus COR and had two hours ridge soaring and wave hunting while Jimbob hired the Portmoak Discus and finished the day with similar flight .
JimBob hires the Discus......

.......and chases his shadow
More travellers arrived by 6:30pm JUST  in time for dinner, but with the new kitchen regime there was no beating with a broom handle, no lines to write (I will not be late again) or standing in the corner whilst being showered with rotten eggs , a great relieve for Paul S who last year had to endure all three before the message got through .
Again tomorrow's forecast looks poor, but we are ever hopeful,  lectures on airspace etc first thing (yes Henry that is before 12 noon!) should pass the time until the sun peeks out . - Mark C

 Warmth at Northill at last
The sun shone and the strong north easterly wind abated, the airmass was still good with plenty of strong thermals (and sink). Although the thermals were going, cloudbase was pretty low initially but the launchpoint was busy with a very long two-seater queue of check flights and training and private owners.
Tim in ASW19 877 soared locally for 3:33, Tom breezed round the Club 100 in DG1 gaining Silver distance, but just missing the 100km diploma on the start zone. Ruth had her longest solo soaring flight.
Texas Tom with a cheesy grin

Pete St struggled round the Club 100 twice in 4:22 and overcame intermittent logger poblems.
It was lovely to be warm again and we sat outside the clubhouse after flying.

Friday 5th April, Go North - Well only a little

In sympathy or even envy of our fellow club members who are heading north for fun in Haggis territory, JB and I had made plans to go north too but only as far as the cliffs on the north coast. We managed to persuade Peter F to fly the tug with Liam and Adrian who, came up early, lending a hand to hook on and run wings.

The wind was a strong NNE at 22kts with gusts of up to 30kts which needless to say made rigging interesting. Too blustery to launch we retired to the club house to warm up, have tea and hope the wind would settle down a bit.  Fortunately the gods were smiling on us and the wind duly dropped to a dull roar so we readied the tug before Peter gingerly taxied to the west end. M5 launched first, pulling off tow at 2500' over Wiveliscombe under a great cloud street before setting off on a long very shallow looking glide to the coast at Minehead. 
Turning Minehead Harbour
The cliffs were romping even with the oblique wind and it wasn't long before JB arrived to join in the fun. Seagulls, walkers and a lone buzzard shared a couple of hours with us as we repeatedly traversed the coast from Minehead to Combe-Martin grinning all the way.
Into wind - It will work around the point..Honest!
Combe-Martin - 40km to Minehead
We even managed to climb away from Porlock in some 'rough as old boots' rotor thermal to enable the glide back to North Hill.

An epic adventure made possible by the generosity of Peter F, Liam and Adrian who gave up their time to come and help us. Outstanding dudes!

Friday 5th April - Portmoak

The DSGC spearhead group left North Hill on a freezing Thursday evening, hugely thankful to the group that derigged the DG 505 and Junior in arctic conditions earlier that day . Night stop over north of Birmingham with a 4 am rolling start on Friday  meant that they arrived at Portmoak by 10:30 having stopped for breakfast in the Lake District.
Forms signed and logbooks checked, we set about rigging the DG.  Ron and Dan had arrived earlier and had already rigged the ASH. We decided to have an aerotow as the winch launch point was cluttered by two groups of pilots from "down South" .

At first it was a real struggle but once you got established the thermals were cracking.  Ron and Dan disappeared towards the mountains followed by Simon L and Jimbob.
The air was clear, crisp and very cold especially at height, even colder for Simon as his trousers were ripped apart when Jimbob raised the under carriage , the lever tore into Simon's very expensive C&A corderoy  pants, with a girly scream he declared that he has had them from the 70s. He was last seen heading towards the clubhouse with his pants looking like a New York rapper . (ed: pics?)
The catering was excellent , which was a relief as this year the Staff were all new , they even put chocolate sprinkles on Our ice creams!
Tomorrow's forecast looks really good ( it will probably rain then! ) Ron is planning a trip around Ben Nevis, with the rest of the group arriving the day will be filled with check rides etc.
The forecast for the week is changing by the hour , if the wind stays East and dry we could have some good days with streets tempting us into the mountains , I promised to kiss a frog if I got there , lets hope I regret saying that ! (ed: we'll definitely want a photo of that)

Thursday 4th April

It was a bitingly cold north-easterly wind with no sun to help the temperature and some lowish cloud. The Thursday thermallers were treated to a briefing on Speed to fly and polar curves and the first of the new briefings on safe winch launching. This was followed by a little tidy up outside to start filling the skip in the absence of Uncle Mark. After lunch, the hangar was unpacked in the howling wind and snow flurries to derig the Junior and the DG505 for the Portmoak Pilgrims. Meanwhile, Liam, Ollie and Max were joined by Will and continued with the sponsored trailer wash in the freezing temperatures. Well done to all the team for persevering with the task in such onerous conditions.

Wednesday 3rd April

There was a strong cold north easterly wind continuing to bring good unstable air, but today there was plenty of sunshine to get the thermals going. Most people had soaring flights, and Matt and Adrian flew the DG505 round the Club 100 NHL - Yeovil - Tiverton East  - NHL on a training cross-country flight. 
Liam, Max, Ollie, and Sam were in full swing on the sponsored trailer wash for the Ian Beckett fund. 
ASH25 trailer was quite dirty!
 It was nice to see John St at the Club to see all the Wednesday crew again, "I have been overwelmed by everybody's kindness and support, emails, letters, visits and cards."